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On Taking a Break

Updated: Dec 17, 2022

In spring of 2022, I had the tremendous privilege to take. a. break.

My university granted me a semester leave to conduct research abroad. I chose to spend it studying the Italian language and learning from scholars that strive to make public-facing work on migration issues in Europe.

It was only toward the end of my five months in Bologna, Italy, that I realized how truly empty I had felt before I came.

It took months, often frustrating, also illuminating, living as an amateur in new fields and adjusting to new cultural and social expectations that I felt revived stirrings of what had become dormant creativity. I had the fortune to take time to play a bit, try new things, sometimes in spite of a niggling little ache of "is this really your work?"

There is always so much work. And I truly believe there is great meaning to be found in work. I don't know if "balance" is the right word for what I'm looking for in any case: my personal life and political beliefs and professional goals have always felt entangled, and I'm just the kitten buried in that messy ball of yarn.

But when the work stops being fun entirely, I think we do have to ask ourselves, what really is our work. I know we have to eat, and often support others. How can I make it possible for work -- my work and the work of others -- to stay lively, dynamic, engaging, and important? Sometimes the best way is to step away. For a moment. A month. Or more.

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